The Widecombe-in-the-Moor Website
Widecombe History Group Talk
A look at the Prehistoric remains, and more, on Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor through the eyes of Dr Paul Rainbird - a talk entitled
“Prehistoric Dartmoor the view from Bodmin Moor”.
This talk was very interesting and it began with a detailed look at the artefacts of Bodmin Moor and the differences, and similarities, between the archaeology and to some degree the geology, of the two Moors. When walking on Western Dartmoor Paul could see Bodmin Moor in the distance and curiosity led him to explore the two moors with particular reference to their prehistory. Beginning with Bodmin, and the highest point Brown Willey, at 420 metres, considerably less than the highest tor on Dartmoor, but also covered with a wide variety of interesting remnants of the past. Looking at a simple map of Bodmin one notices that it is cut in half by the A30 trunk road. It is considered wetter even than Dartmoor, being the first high ground encountered by the south west winds. Since 1980 there has been a vast amount of research into the archaeology of Bodmin. Cairns, stone circles, stone rows, 16 standing stones, have been recorded, and at least 211 settlements traced. A group of archaeologists from The University College of London, between 1995 and 1999, did several excavations, and much research into the important part that Roughtor, the second highest tor on Bodmin, seems to play in the understanding of those early settlers. One fascinating find is the ‘bank-cairn’ c500 metres long, Neolithic, Paul considers, dating from c3700 B.C.
Then interesting geological features like the ‘cheesewring’, rock basins, and ‘prop stones’ all came under consideration within the talk. The Tolmen (Trevithy Quoit) an early burial site was discussed and how all these fit into the landscape. Roughtor seems to be very important and appears to feature in the background of so many of these sites, and their alignments. Nine stone circles within an earthworks known as an ‘Henge’ are close by. A very distinctive area known as Leskernick has many settlements within a tight area. Looking at hut circles (round houses), there appears to be a style of ‘shrine’ or ‘back stone’ generally opposite the entrance to many of these buildings. A large triangular stone from which one can look through the ‘doorway’ and see a natural feature that one can assume played an important part in the lives of those early peoples.
And so back to Dartmoor.
Geological features, Branscombe’s Loaf, Rippon Tor with its cairns, Bowerman’s Nose, Staple Tor all have similar reasons to line up with some of Dartmoor’s cairns and features, some on the top of the tors like Corndon Tor.
Paul explained how through research, attempts have been made to understand how and why, the position of these early man made features line up with the natural features of the hills and tors nearby.
Many serious archaeologists have spent hours working on these theories and are still at it.
This left us with a massive amount to consider and discuss as we too, try to understand the minds of our early forefathers of these two wonderful local Moors at our disposal.
If anyone needs a thought provoking talk that leaves you pondering the answers and eager to learn more, this is the talk for you.
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